Councilman Will the center of it
The first marathon, as legend has it, was run more than two millennia ago by a messenger named Philippides between the Greek cities of Marathon and Athens. Much has changed since 490 B.C., but the grit, dedication and shear willpower it takes to complete a 26-mile jaunt remains the same.
Today, annual marathons continue to attract the most stalwart runners in the world, but technology and community support has allowed individuals like Joe Sommers, of Jordan, to finally participate. Sommers was born with a chromosomal abnormality, limiting his movement and cognitive abilities, but that hasn’t stopped him from completing countless 5Ks, 10Ks and a couple half-marathons alongside his sister, Sunny Klein.
In November, the siblings will take their racing to the next level by participating in their first marathon. In preparation, Klein has scaled their runs up to 22 miles and Sommers is receiving a new, top of the line racing wheelchair. The nerves, anticipation and preparation is partially because they won’t be making their debut at just any marathon — they’ll be running in the world’s largest: the New York City Marathon.
On top of that, it will also mark a first for the New York Marathon. The 2019 race, with the inclusion of Klein and Sommers and several other pairings, will be the first race to feature duo teams in the marathon’s 49 year history.
“Its crazy to me that it’s the year 2019 and this is the first year the biggest marathons in the world, New York and Boston, have let in duo teams,” Klein said. “It seems a little silly that we’re still fighting for the rights of people with disabilities, you’d think we’re beyond that.”
Klein and Sommers have been fighting for inclusion since they began running together in 2006. Klein was looking to get back into shape after having her first child and, inspired by jogger strollers for her newborn, she took Sommers along in an all-terrain jogger wheelchair.
“We just kind of took off together. He loved it and felt really free being able to do it,” Klein said. “I never thought he’d take to it like he does.”
Since then they’ve competed regularly in 5K and 10K races. They’ve also fought personal barriers by challenging race organizers to allow disabled duos to compete. Four years ago, they were the first duo team to compete in the Twin Cities Ten Mile.
“They were pretty intimidated to let a duo team in, so we were the guinea pigs and from that day forward now they let duo teams in,” Klein said.
This weekend will mark the fourth consecutive year they’ve participated in the TCTM. In those years, Klein said, the number of duo teams they’ve seen competing has grown considerably.
One year after they got into the TCTM, they became the first duo team to participate in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon (Grandma’s Marathon) in Duluth. The half marathon tacked three more miles onto Klein and Sommers’s longest runs, and for Klein — who’s pushing about one-and-a-half times her body weight — every additional mile can be a race of its own.
“It was a really scary step,” she said. “It felt good, it’s crazy how many people turn out in that town to cheer you on. It’s pretty awesome and you feed off the adrenaline of the crowd, especially when they see (Sommers) — they get excited. And you can’t not have a good time pushing him because he’s hi-fiving everyone and people are cheering him on. He inspires people out there.”
Klein is hoping Sommers’s joy and enthusiasm will inspire runners in New York City, as they as they jog through all five boroughs this November for the annual marathon. Klein first got word of the decision to include duo teams in February. The marathon was only include a select number of duo teams, so Klein was encouraged to send an application, sharing her and Sommers’s story.
She suspects they chose to include her and Sommers due to their bond and their history of being trailblazers in Minnesota’s duo running scene. One of their primary concerns, however, was Sommers’s chair, which had fallen into disrepair. New jogging chairs, even budget models, can be expensive. But Klein’s husband insisted they take a new chair to New York.
“He said the old one couldn’t make it that far,” Klein said.
A few friends Klein and Sommers attended Prior Lake High School with heard about their need for a new chair and started a GoFundMe page to ensure the siblings could participate in the marathon. The page attracted the attention of Beth Boyden, another Prior Lake alumna, who became the largest contributor for the chair. Beth was inspired by Klein and Sommers’ story and felt it aligned with the values of her business, Navigate HR.
“Klein is super humble and such a good person,” Boyden said. “She doesn’t know how to not do good. When I look at her and her family and how she lives her life, it’s inspiring. It truly is.”
All of the donors, with their names emblazoned on the wheelchair, will cross the finish line with Klein and Sommers on Nov. 3. In the weeks leading up to the race, Klein and Sommers have been running their regular routes along Jordan roads and trails (in the winter they run inside the CERC).
“People have gotten to recognize our route and now they wave to us,” she said.
They recently completed their first 20-mile run and plan to tackle a 22-mile run next week before they to taper down to shorter distances in the lead-up to the marathon. Klein said the longer rides have allowed the two to spend more time together and become closer.
“I feel more bonded with him, because it’s something only him and I are sharing — especially after our 20-miler last week.”
The running isn’t all hard work, though. Klein said they listen to 1980s favorites like Journey and bring snacks for the longer runs. Considering the memories they’ve already created along the way, Klein anticipates New York is going to be something very special.
“That’s why I’m excited,” she said. “We’re always going to have this day in New York, doing the world’s largest marathon, seeing all the city and creating moments only him and I will have to share.”
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On Nov. 5, local voters will be asked to approve a $39.5 million Jordan Public Schools referendum that consists of three proposals.
For the past few weeks, the Jordan Independent has explored each question that will appear on the ballot.
In the final part of the series, the Independent will look at the third question on the ballot, which reads:
“If School District Question 1 and School District Question 2 are approved, shall the board of Independent School District No. 717 (Jordan), Minnesota be authorized to issue general obligation school building bonds in an aggregate amount not to exceed $15,000,000 for acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities, including but not limited to, remodeling and extension of the auditorium at Jordan High School and construction of a multipurpose indoor activity facility?”
The first question on the November ballot will ask voters to raise the per-student operational levy by $300. The second question will ask voters to approve a $24.5 million bond that will fund four large projects: the construction of an early learning services building, elementary school renovations, a high school remodel and improved parking and drives.
Both questions need to pass in order to make funding for the projects included in question three viable.
The third question will ask voters to approve a $15 million bond that will fund two large projects: the expansion and improvement of the high school auditorium and the construction of a multipurpose field house on the “south campus.”
The first project stems from a severe lack of seating space in the high school auditorium, which hosts assemblies, plays, concerts and ceremonies. The proposed auditorium renovation would add 200 seats, increasing capacity from 450 to 650, and update lighting and sound technology.
Superintendent Matt Helgerson said the school needs special permission from the fire marshal to bring in additional seating for popular annual events like the spring pops concert.
“I think people understand that our current auditorium was built too small for today’s population,” Helgerson said. “We’ve had some student assemblies already to start the year and we’ve had to bring in a whole bunch of extra chairs.”
The district has tried to mitigate the issue for some time by increasing the number of shows and introducing preferred arrival times for parents and students of different grade levels to keep crowd sizes from swelling.
“That’s something common throughout our district now as we’ve gotten bigger. Adding a couple hundred seats would certainly help that.”
Helgerson said if the referendum fails the problem won’t go away and the district will likely use deferred maintenance funds to pay for the renovations.
“One way or another we have to address it,” he said.
District officials envision the second project, a multipurpose field house, to work as an extension of both the Community Education and Recreation Center’s model and the district’s activities programming. If approved, the field house would be built on the “south campus,” a parcel of district-owned land on along Highway 21 that is also the proposed site of a new early learning services building — the approval for which is included in Question 2.
The large indoor facility would include a track, turf field, golf and archery simulator bays and other amenities aimed at serving the entire community. Helgerson said the simulator bays shouldn’t be confused with arcade games.
“You actually shoot an arrow with your bow, and you hit a golf ball with your actually golf clubs, into this giant screen that is designed for this,” he said.
The field and track would be designed to accommodate sports like soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball, track and field and football.
“It is certainly not just a space for our football program, I’ve heard that,” Helgerson said. “It’s a space for all of our athletic programs with the exception of basketball, and potential new ones.”
District officials are interested in developing partnerships and rental agreements with other school districts to potentially give students who want to play currently unavailable activities, like lacrosse and hockey, a partner. An indoor multipurpose facility, Helgerson said, could be used to attract other districts into pursuing cooperative sports agreements.
Helgerson said the proposed use would be very similar to CERC, where the facility is open to the public during certain hours and restricted to student use at other times.
The average Jordan home, valued at $250,000, currently contributes $1,049 in taxes to fund the school district’s operating authority and building bonds.
If Questions 1 and 2 are approved, that average will rise to about $1,385 annually — marking a $335.28 annual increase for the average Jordan home, or $27.94 per month. A $125,000 home would see a $151 annual increase, while a home valued at $550,000 would see an annual increase of $777.
If all three referendum measures are approved by voters, the average will rise to $1,505 annually — marking a $456 annual increase for the average Jordan home, or about $38 per month. A $125,000 home would see a $201 annual increase, while a home valued at $550,000 would see an annual increase of $1,064.
For a more detailed look at the referendum funding, see the first and second articles in this series at jordannews.com.
The school district will host a fifth and final informational meeting ahead of the Nov. 5 vote. The community conversation will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 21 at Jordan Elementary School.
More information on the referendum can be found at www.jordan.k12.mn.us/ref2019, including a tax calculator that allows residents to calculate their individual tax impact by entering their parcel ID.